A round up on what’s happening at the TV News Archive by Katie Dahl and Nancy Watzman. Additional research by Robin Chin.
When President Donald Trump takes the podium to deliver his first official State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, January 30, he’ll be following in the footsteps of the nation’s very first president, George Washington, long before there was cable TV or radio.
In Washington’s time, the speech was not yet known as the State of the Union, but the annual message, and according to Donald Ritchie, former U.S. Senate historian, seen here in a clip from C-Span, the practice was “to [physically] cut the State of the Union message up into paragraphs and create committees to address each one of the issues the president suggested.” There were no standing committees in Congress at that time. Now it’s fact-checkers who examine the speech, line by line, and since 2017, we’ve been annotating our TV news programs with fact-checks of Trump, top administration officials, and the four top congressional leaders, Democrat and Republican.
Make history by being a beta tester of FactStream, a new free app for iPhone or iPad, which will deliver live fact-checks of Trump’s State of the Union address from national fact-checking organizations. The app is a product of Duke Reporters Lab Tech & Check collective, of which the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive is a member. We’ll be adding the fact-checks to the TV News Archive, too.
At the TV News Archive, we’ve got historical footage of some past State of the Union addresses, listed below. Last year we annotated Trump’s address to Congress – not officially a State of the Union, since he was newly inaugurated – with fact-checks from our fact-checking partners, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Fact-checks are noted with a red check mark on the TV News Archive filmstrip screen.
For example, the above segment of Trump’s 2017 speech, marked with a red check mark, was fact-checked by both PolitiFact and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Trump said, “According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.”
PolitiFact’s Miriam Valverde rated this claim as “mostly false”: “Trump’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.” Michelle Ye Hee Lee, writing for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave the claim “four Pinocchios,” stating it relied on “a grossly exaggerated misuse of federal data.”
Past State of the Union addresses
1988: Ronald Reagan (no closed captioning)
1980: Jimmy Carter (no closed captioning)
1963: John F. Kennedy (no closed captioning)
1961: John F. Kennedy (no closed captioning)
1942: Franklin D. Roosevelt (no closed captioning)